Many, many people have glimpses of awakening. More than a few of you probably can instantly recall these moments where suddenly you felt filled with love, peace, or silence. It’s like a window opened up inside you, and you were bathed in light. Then, for whatever reason, that window shut. For some of you, that little glimpse into the truth became the basis for your spiritual journey, and this can be a very beautiful thing when the journey doesn’t become an endless quest. For others, it wasn’t enough, or you didn’t like what else the light showed you.
Because the light simply reveals what is. If the light that comes in through the window shows a beautiful inner space, it’s easier to want to follow that light. If it shows all kinds of garbage and emotional debris, many people try to blame the light, and then they want that spiritual opening to close. And it usually does.
Since these spiritual glimpses or spiritual openings are so common, it’s important to appreciate them and the opportunity for revelation and conscious change that they offer. It can also be important to not confuse them with a spiritual awakening or assume that we’ve achieved something. The awareness that is revealed in a spiritual opening is simply helping us to learn how to start to see life and ourselves. With that seeing, change naturally wants to arise. But you will most likely have to make space for it.
While I don’t like to get too hung up on concepts, I feel like our cultural spiritual vocabulary is woefully small. The term “spiritual awakening” or “awakening” is being used for every kind of change from a simple change of heart or realization that helping people is important to the actual shift where you become deeply connected to the Truth and life irrevocably alters itself, seemingly on its own. Generally speaking, there’s a lot of overlap in the advice I offer, but the more you’re in a space where you’re only having openings, the more important focused discipline tends to be.
Why is this?
We tend to be creatures of habit. We like to stay in our karmic cycles and unhealthy patterns, and where the deeper Truth of us comes up against one of those cycles, we generally do not have the will, focus, aspiration, or energy to break through it. In a spiritual awakening, it almost feels like we have no choice in the matter as if we are being broken open by some other force. As those of you in awakening consciously accept this dramatic shift, you join more consciously with this force and allow it as you realize that it is actually just you and the divine at work looking after your best interests.
With a spiritual opening, it tends to be more externally dependent. In awakening, you can’t get away from it because it is you. With an opening, you can feel something in a given moment, but when the moment passes, the opening closes. This happens all the time with people who go to spiritual retreats or sit with spiritual teachers. It can arise with psychedelic drugs, although I do not advocate this. The experience you are seeking is already within you, and you don’t need a foreign substance to enjoy the profundity of you. A spiritual opening can happen at any moment really, and it generally is showing people the power in letting go into what Is.
Your Very First Glimpse of Awakening
Oftentimes, the first glimpse of the awakened state and all the associated feelings, sensations, and whatnot that arise is the most compelling spiritual experience we have. This is not always true, but for many people the first spiritual opening is kinda like losing your virginity, assuming you had a good experience. Things can feel so brand new and so good that you think this is the ultimate state of awareness. The mind soon tries to get this feeling back. This can happen in simpler ways when someone has a very pleasant meditation without trying. Then they start trying, and their meditation is never quite the same again.
After we touch this space, we also tend to become more aware of what is not aligned with this space. Generally, most people want to ignore the inner problems they have, and because our culture has taught us to treat experiences as something to gather and indulge in, we try to get these feelings back like it’s another bag of candy. But you can never get that moment–or any other moment for that matter–back, and the real opportunity with any spiritual opening is to use that glimpse to understand yourself better. If you don’t feel that deep level of connection regularly, then why do you feel cut off? What is cutting you off? What internal rules do you have about when you can feel loved or peaceful? This is when things start to get interesting.
The Arising of Different Spiritual Openings
However, instead of going inwards, many people become expert spiritual tourists, visiting every holy site, reading every spiritual text, and meeting every spiritual guru they can. Many others go down the route of drug use in pursuit of more good feelings. They confuse the good feeling experience as being “spiritual,” but all of life is spiritual. They are on the feel-good path, which tends to demonize, repress, or ignore uncomfortable feelings. Now don’t get me wrong; it’s fun to feel-good. I love feeling good. Who doesn’t? But I have learned that when you focus on how we daily make ourselves feel bad through a host of faulty inner thinking, bad health habits, closed hearts, and so forth that clearing those out give rise to an abiding sense of good feeling more often than not. The other ways tend to be short lived, and as you’ve had more and more of those wonderful experiences, they may last for shorter and shorter times. You may notice that craving and desire can get worse if you’ve followed this track. This desire is a lesson and a clue to show you where the real issues lie.
The Deepening of Craving and Desire
While a spiritual opening can offer a wonderful opportunity to step into a world that many people never even knew existed, people tend to take all their ego issues into the spiritual world in hopes of finding some perfect solution that will always make them happy. As such, the ego may put on new clothes, new living habits, and maybe even a new spiritual name, but the core issues are all still in tact. In this way, the individual is a hypocrite. Now there are worse places to be a hypocrite, but you never know what nasty things will show up when someone hasn’t done their work. Because the darkness does get revealed one way or another. The dissatisfaction with the “spiritual path” often becomes another opening into the true spiritual path where we genuinely look inwards instead of looking to external circumstances. This is when things get messy. This is when things start to get real, and the pristine white, glamorous ideals of spirituality start to rub away to reveal the broken down wreck that we’ve been living in.
This is a good thing.
But most people don’t understand this.
Using the Spotlight to Good Effect
You can avoid the great disappointment I’ve described above by turning inwards. That is ultimately the greatest opportunity you receive with any glimpse of the awakened state. There is nothing to gain from the external world. So turn your light inwards to see what stands in the way of your love, peace, and clarity. A lot of times, spiritual glimpses start to show quite a bit of darkness and inner agony. With the inner abuse we’ve endured from others and committed on ourselves, this shouldn’t be surprising. It doesn’t mean we should be upset or angry at ourselves. That’s just adding abuse to abuse. It does mean we need to take responsibility for our parts in it. If there’s a mess here, we put it here even if we’ve experienced horrible trauma in the past. This type of ownership starts to make living inside ourselves a whole lot more comfortable, although not necessarily at first. What often can happen with this inner work is that suddenly another glimpse of awakening springs up on its own, and some of our natural spiritual shifts and energetic healing begin to do the work we’ve been blocking.
The Organic, Natural Nature of Spirituality
One of my favorite metaphors is the metaphor of the crucible. Another way I can help you differentiate awakening from an opening–even a profound spiritual opening–is that the fire takes off in awakening. Everything, EVERYTHING, is being burnt to the ground. In a spiritual opening, a fire may light up some realizations, and if you take action, then it can look a little bit like awakening. And ultimately, who cares what the difference is if you are embracing love? But with that said, it is really important for most of you to build up the crucible and the fire in that crucible. That’s why I talk so much about the discipline of meditation, journaling, nature walks, or whatever is part of your practice. That’s why a spiritual teacher, healer, leader, or community can be helpful. It’s all part of building a crucible that can get the inner fire burning bright enough so that you start to naturally see what needs your attention in your own space. Then you start to burn up the restrictions, fears, and limitations that bind you. It is enormously liberating, and it is possible for everyone because spirituality isn’t beyond anyone. It’s not some idealized state of awareness. It’s simply being you, and no matter how extraordinary you felt with a particular glimpse of awakening, that feeling came from within you. It’s not that you can’t achieve it again–it’s that you are already that, although the feelings associated with the awakened state are always shifting.
Awakening embraces everything.
With that said, as the fire grows brighter, things naturally start to unfold. It will take you into the unknown and into vulnerable places again and again. Anywhere you are living too small, you will go to the wall and through it. That is the gift of a spiritual opening–to see where life is too small and to embrace your spiritual growth. With intention, compassion, and self-love, you can transform your life into a beautiful conscious experience regardless of if you ever have an “awakening” or not.